The Play in Full
Demonstrating Skill in the Arts
Degé Kangyur, vol. 46 (mdo sde, kha), folios 1.b–216.b
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The Play in Full tells the story of how the Buddha manifested in this world and attained awakening, as perceived from the perspective of the Great Vehicle. The sūtra, which is structured in twenty-seven chapters, first presents the events surrounding the Buddha’s birth, childhood, and adolescence in the royal palace of his father, king of the Śākya nation. It then recounts his escape from the palace and the years of hardship he faced in his quest for spiritual awakening. Finally the sūtra reveals his complete victory over the demon Māra, his attainment of awakening under the Bodhi tree, his first turning of the wheel of Dharma, and the formation of the very early saṅgha.
This text was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the supervision of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche.
Cortland Dahl, Catherine Dalton, Hilary Herdman, Heidi Koppl, James Gentry, and Andreas Doctor translated the text from Tibetan into English. Andreas Doctor and Wiesiek Mical then compared the translations against the original Tibetan and Sanskrit, respectively. Finally, Andreas Doctor edited the translation and wrote the introduction.
The Dharmachakra Translation Committee would like to thank Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche for blessing this project, and Khenpo Sherap Sangpo for his generous assistance with the resolution of several difficult passages.
This translation has been completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of 簡源震及家人江秀敏，簡暐如，簡暐丞 Chien YuanChen (Dharma Das) and his wife, daughter, and son for work on this sūtra is gratefully acknowledged.
“Your Majesty, you know that the priests who are skilled in making predictions, as well as the gods who have definite knowledge, have foretold that if Prince Sarvārthasiddha renounces the household, he will become a thus-gone one, a worthy one, a completely perfect buddha. Yet if he does not renounce the household, he will become a universal monarch, a righteous Dharma king who has conquered the four quarters and is equipped with the seven treasures. The seven treasures that will be his are the precious wheel, the precious elephant, the precious horse, the precious wife, the precious jewel, [F.71.b] the precious steward, and the precious minister. He will have one thousand sons, all of them full, fierce warriors with well-built bodies that destroy the armies of the enemy. He will conquer the entire earth without the use of violence or weapons, and then he will rule  according to the Dharma. Therefore we must arrange a marriage for the prince. Once he is surrounded by a group of women, he will discover pleasure and not renounce the household. In that way the line of our universal monarchy will not be cut, and we will be irreproachably respected by all the kings of the realm.”
King Śuddhodana then said to the assembly, “If we are to do such a thing, then you should determine which girl would be a suitable match for the prince.”
One by one, five hundred Śākyas each came forth and said, “My daughter would be suitable for the prince! My daughter is very beautiful.”
“My son is difficult to match,” said the king. “So we should ask the prince himself which girl he prefers.”
As everyone gathered and broached the matter with the prince, he told them, “I will give you an answer in seven days.” He then thought:
The prince first reflected in this way. Then, manifesting skillful means, he considered the ripening of sentient beings and engendered intense compassion for them. He then spoke the following verses:
Monks, when King Śuddhodana heard those verses, he ordered his family priest, “Go, great priest, out to the city of Kapilavastu! Go to every household and scrutinize the girls! If there is someone with these qualities—no matter whether she is a girl of royal caste, priestly caste, merchant caste, or servant caste—report to us about that girl! Because the prince is not after family or caste; rather he is interested in her qualities alone.” 
On that occasion, he spoke the following verses:
Monks, the family priest went out to the city of Kapilavastu carrying the written verses, and wandered from house to house looking carefully, searching for a girl with such qualities. However, he did not see such a girl.
Eventually he reached the house of the Śākya Daṇḍapāṇi. When he entered that dwelling, he saw a beautiful, pleasant, and captivating girl. The girl had a sublimely beautiful complexion like a white lotus, was neither too tall nor too short, neither too fat nor too thin, neither too fair nor too dark, was in her first blush of youth, and was a jewel of a woman, just as the prince had described.
He then gave the girl the letter. The girl read the verses out loud, then she revealed a smile and spoke in verse to the priest: 
The councilor went before King Śuddhodana and told him what had happened: “I have seen, O King, a girl who would be suitable for the boy.”
The king asked, “Who does she belong to?”
King Śuddhodana thought to himself, “The boy is unparalleled and inclined toward virtue. Most girls have no qualities, yet they think of themselves very highly. I will have some pleasing items made and let the boy distribute them to all the girls. I will choose for the prince whichever girl his eyes linger upon.”
King Śuddhodana did indeed prepare some pleasing items made of gold, silver, and various jewels. Once the preparations were completed, he had the bell sounded in the city of Kapilavastu and announced the following decree: “In seven days the prince will give a public showing. He will give pleasing goods to the girls, so all the girls should gather together in the assembly hall at that time.”
Monks, after seven days had passed, the Bodhisattva went to the assembly hall [F.73.b] and took his seat on a splendid throne. King Śuddhodana had put some spies in place and ordered them, “Report to me if the boy’s eyes linger upon any particular girl!” 
Monks, then the Bodhisattva gave the pleasing items to the girls according to the order of their arrival. The girls, however, could not bear the Bodhisattva’s splendor and brilliance and, as soon as they received the gifts, they quickly departed.
Then the daughter of Daṇḍapāṇi Śākya, the Śākya girl named Gopā, surrounded and escorted by an entourage of female servants, came into the assembly hall where the Bodhisattva was seated. She approached the Bodhisattva and stood to one side, staring at him with unblinking eyes.
When the Bodhisattva had finished distributing all the gifts, she went up to him and, with a smile on her face, said to him, “O Prince, you pay no attention to me. Have I done anything inappropriate toward you?”
The prince responded, “I am not ignoring you. But you certainly have come very late.” He then took off his ring, which was worth several hundreds of thousands of silver coins, and gave it to her.
“Am I, Prince, worthy of this?” she asked.
The prince replied, “Here, take all these other ornaments of mine as well.”
Then the girl said, “It is not right to strip the prince of his adornments. Rather we should adorn the prince.” And then she left.
The people who were positioned as spies came before King Śuddhodana and reported the event, saying, “O King, the boy’s eyes lingered upon the daughter of Daṇḍapāṇi Śākya, the Śākya girl named Gopā, and there was a brief conversation between them.” [F.74.a] 
Daṇḍapāṇi replied, “The noble boy has grown up in the palace in ease and comfort. Yet our family rule is such that a girl can only be granted to someone who is skilled in the arts, and not to a man who lacks these skills. The prince is not skilled in the arts since he does not know the maneuvers of swordsmanship, archery, combat, or wrestling. How can I give away my daughter to someone who lacks such skills?”
The king was informed of this reply and thought, “This makes two times that I have been opposed with such a commonsensical rule. When I said, ‘Why don’t the Śākya boys come to attend upon the boy?’ I was told, ‘Why should we attend upon an indolent?’ And now this.” The king sat and reflected thus.
But the king just responded, “O child, enough with your questioning!”
The Bodhisattva then asked, “O King, is there anyone in this city who can compete with me in the arts?”
The prince responded, “I surely am,  Your Majesty. So please assemble everyone who is skilled in the arts! [F.74.b] Then I will demonstrate my skills before them.”
King Śuddhodana then asked for the bell to be sounded in the city of Kapilavastu and announced, “In seven days the prince will demonstrate his prowess in the arts. Thus everyone skilled in the arts is to assemble then!”
When seven days had passed, a group of Śākya boys five hundred strong assembled. The daughter of Daṇḍapāṇi Śākya, the Śākya girl named Gopā, was put forward as a trophy for the victor, and a pledge was sworn: “Whoever here is victorious in swordsmanship, archery, combat, and wrestling shall have her.”
Ahead of everyone else, the boy Devadatta arrived from the city. He saw that a large white elephant was being brought to the city for the Bodhisattva to ride. Intoxicated with jealousy, and drunk with pride about his Śākya family line as well as his own strength, he grabbed hold of the elephant by its trunk with his left hand and killed it with his right hand in a single stroke.
Right then the boy Sundarananda arrived. Seeing that an elephant had been killed at the city gate, he asked, “Who killed it?”
The crowd told him, “It was Devadatta.”
Later the Bodhisattva arrived riding a chariot and noticed the dead elephant. When he inquired who had killed the animal, he was told that it was Devadatta. The Bodhisattva said, “That was not good of Devadatta.  Who dragged the elephant outside the city gate?”
When he was then told that it was Sundarananda who had done so, he answered, “It was good that Sundarananda carried it out, but this animal has a huge body. When it decays, the entire city will fill with a horrible stench.” Then, while still on his chariot, [F.75.a] the prince extended one foot to the ground, and with his big toe he took hold of the elephant and hurled it a mile outside the city, over seven walls and seven moats. A deep pit formed where the elephant landed. Today this is aptly called Elephant Gorge.
Then five hundred Śākya boys emerged from the city and arrived at the place where they were to demonstrate their abilities in the arts. King Śuddhodana, the Śākya elders, and a big crowd also arrived there, eager to compare the differences in artistic skill between the Bodhisattva and the other Śākya boys.
First those Śākya boys who were skilled in the rules of writing competed with the Bodhisattva in the art of scripts. The teacher Viśvāmitra was appointed judge by the Śākyas, and he announced, “You are to determine who among these  boys is superior, whether in penmanship or in the knowledge of scripts.”
The Śākyas said, “It may indeed be that this boy is superior in knowledge of scripts, but he should also be tested and distinguish himself in knowledge of mathematics.” So the greatest mathematician among the Śākyas, a man called Arjuna, an adept in knowledge of calculation, was appointed judge and told, “You are to determine who among the boys here is superior in knowledge of numbers.”
First the Bodhisattva proposed a mathematical problem. One of the Śākya boys tried to calculate it, but he could not solve it. Next another Śākya boy, then two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred—up to five hundred of them—together tried to calculate the problem, but they could not solve it.
Next the Bodhisattva said, “Now you propose a mathematical problem, and I will calculate it.” One of the Śākya boys proposed a mathematical problem to the Bodhisattva, but the boy could not confound the Bodhisattva’s calculations. Next two of the Śākya boys, then three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty—up to five hundred of them—together proposed a mathematical problem, but they could not confound the Bodhisattva’s calculations.
Finally the Bodhisattva said, “Enough with this dispute! All of you should convene and propose a mathematical problem for me. Then I will calculate it.” Accordingly five hundred Śākya boys  in unison proposed an unprecedented problem, and still the Bodhisattva calculated it without any consternation. In this way all the Śākya boys met their match while the Bodhisattva remained undefeated. [F.76.a]
The whole Śākya assembly was shocked and amazed, and they all said in unison, “O Prince Sarvārthasiddha, you have won, you have won!” All of them stood up from their seats, and with palms joined paid homage to the Bodhisattva.
“I can, Your Majesty,” responded the Bodhisattva.
“Then calculate away!” commanded the king.
“Yes, I do,” said the Bodhisattva.
“How then,” asked Arjuna, “should one commence that calculation?”
The Bodhisattva replied, “One hundred times ten million is called a billion (ayuta). One hundred times one billion is called one hundred billion (niyuta). One hundred times one hundred billion is called one quadrillion (kañkara). One hundred quadrillions is called one sextillion (vivara). One hundred sextillions is called a nonillion (akṣobhya). One hundred nonillions is called  a vivāha. One hundred vivāhas is called an utsañga. One hundred utsañgas is called a bahula. One hundred bahulas is called a nāgabala. One hundred nāgabalas is called a tiṭilambha. [F.76.b] One hundred tiṭilambhas is called a vyavasthānaprajñapti. One hundred vyavasthānaprajñaptis is called a hetuhila. One hundred hetuhilas is called a karaphū. One hundred karaphūs is called a hetvindriya. One hundred hetvindriyas is called a samāptalambha. One hundred samāptalambhas is called a gaṇanāgati. One hundred gaṇanāgatis is called a niravadya. One hundred niravadyas is called a mudrābala. One hundred mudrābalas is called a sarvabala. One hundred sarvabalas is called a visaṃjñāgati. One hundred visaṃjñāgatis is called a sarvasaṃjña. One hundred sarvasaṃjñas is called a vibhūtaṃgamā. One hundred vibhūtaṃgamās is called a tallakṣaṇa.
“If one uses tallakṣaṇa as the basic unit of calculation, it is feasible to calculate the size of Mount Meru, the king of mountains. Beyond that is the number called dhvajāgravatī. If one uses dhvajāgravatī as the basic unit of calculation, it is possible to solve the calculation for all the grains of sand in the river Ganges. Beyond that is the number called dhvajāgraniśāmaṇī. Next is the number called vāhanaprajñapti. Then comes the number called iṅgā. Beyond that is the number called kuruṭu. Then comes the number called kuruṭāvi. Then comes the number called sarvanikṣepā. With this count serving as the basic unit of calculation, it is possible to calculate the number of grains of sand in ten Ganges rivers. Beyond that is the number called agrasārā. With this figure as the basic unit of calculation, it is possible to solve the calculation equal to the number of grains of sand in one billion Ganges rivers.
“Finally comes the number called application to the smallest particles (paramāṇurajaḥpraveśānugata). With the exception of a thus-gone one, a bodhisattva who dwells at the sublime seat of awakening, or a bodhisattva who is about to be initiated into all Dharmas, there is no other being  who understands this number, with the exception of me and perhaps one like me, namely a bodhisattva in his final existence who has departed from the household.” [F.77.a]
Then Arjuna asked, “Child, how would you enumerate the number application to the smallest particles?”
The Bodhisattva answered, “Seven of the smallest particles is one small particle. Seven small particles is one water particle. Seven water particles is one airborne dust particle. Seven airborne dust particles is one dust particle on a hare. Seven dust particles on a hare is one dust particle on a sheep. Seven dust particles on a sheep is one dust particle on a cow. Seven dust particles on a cow is one louse egg. Seven lice eggs is one mustard seed. Seven mustard seeds is one barley grain. Seven barley grains is one finger joint. Twelve finger joints is one thumb tip to one index fingertip. Two measures of one thumb tip to one index fingertip is one cubit. Four cubits is one bow. One thousand bows is considered one earshot in Magadha. Four times shouting-distance is one league. Who among you knows the total number of smallest particles in a league?”
“Well,” said Arjuna. “I am uncertain about this. So, child, how much more so will the others, who are of weaker intellect, be confused? Child, please explain how many of the smallest particles make up a league.”
The Bodhisattva explained, “A league contains 100 billion nonillions, 30 quintillions, 60 billion, 320 million, 512 thousand smallest particles. Such is the sum of smallest particles in a league. There are seven thousand leagues here in Jambudvīpa, eight thousand leagues in the western continent of Godānīya, nine thousand leagues in the eastern continent of Videha, and ten thousand leagues in the northern continent of Kuru.
“Moreover, there are one billion worlds of four continents, such as this world, and one billion oceans. [F.77.b]  There are also one billion surrounding mountain ranges and one billion outer ranges. Likewise there are one billion Mount Merus, the kings of mountains.
“There are one billion god realms belonging to the Four Great Kings. There are one billion Heavens of the Thirty-Three, one billion Heavens Free from Strife, one billion Heavens of Joy, one billion Heavens of Delighting in Emanations, and one billion Heavens of Making Use of Others’ Emanations.
“There are also one billion Brahma Realms, one billion realms of the High Priests of Brahmā, one billion realms of Brahmā’s Entourage, one billion realms of Great Brahmā, one billion realms of Limited Light, one billion realms of Limitless Light, one billion realms of the Luminous Heaven, one billion realms of the Heaven of Limited Virtue, one billion realms of the Heaven of Limitless Virtue, one billion realms of the Heaven of Perfected Virtue, one billion realms of the Cloudless Heaven, one billion realms of the Heaven of Increased Merit, one billion realms of the Heaven of Great Fruition, one billion realms of the Heaven of Concept-Free Beings, one billion realms of the Unlofty Heaven, one billion realms of the Heaven of No Hardship, one billion realms of the Sublime Heaven, one billion realms of the Gorgeous Heaven, and one billion realms of the Gods of the Highest Heaven. All of this is called a great trichiliocosm.
“In width and breadth, each world system contains leagues measuring in the hundreds, thousands, ten millions, billions, hundred billions, and so on, all the way up to the measure of an agrasārā. There is also a corresponding measure of the smallest particles. The number of these particles can indeed be calculated but, since it is unfathomable, it is called incalculable. A number of smallest particles even more incalculable than that are those contained in a great trichiliocosm.”
When the Bodhisattva demonstrated this display of calculation, the great mathematician Arjuna and the entire assembly of Śākyas were surprised and delighted, and they felt great appreciation and joy. They each kept just a single garment for themselves and offered the remaining garments and jewelry to the Bodhisattva. [F.78.a] 
Monks, in this way all the Śākya youths were defeated and the Bodhisattva alone stood out. As the day progressed, the Bodhisattva also excelled in all aspects of leaping, swimming, and running. In the sky above, gods sang these verses:
At that time the Bodhisattva stood to one side while the five hundred Śākya youths wrestled among themselves. Then thirty-two Śākya youths stayed on to confront the Bodhisattva in wrestling. First Nanda and Ānanda approached the Bodhisattva to wrestle with him. But as soon as the Bodhisattva merely touched the two boys, they were unable to withstand the Bodhisattva’s power and brilliance, and they collapsed on the ground.
Next Devadatta vied with the Bodhisattva. He was a conceited and arrogant young man, who was bloated with pride about his strength and his relationship to the Śākya lineage. In the arena filled with spectators, Devadatta first made a round clockwise, and then he lunged at the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva, however, was calm and unhurried. He playfully seized Devadatta with his right hand, twirled him into a triple spin, and tossed him to the ground. All the while the Bodhisattva’s mind was full of love. He did not intend to hurt Devadatta, but only to break his pride. Therefore Devadatta was unharmed.
Then the Bodhisattva said, “Enough of this quarrel. You should now all join up and confront me in wrestling.”  Exhilarated, they all assailed the Bodhisattva. However, as soon as the Bodhisattva touched them, they were unable to withstand his splendor, brilliance, physical strength, and stamina. Merely by his touch, they fell to the ground. Then hundreds of thousands of gods and humans let out hundreds of thousands of exclamations of shock and cries of joy. The gods in the sky showered down a rain of flowers and called out these verses: [F.79.a]
First Ānanda placed an iron drum  twice shouting-distance away as his target. Next Devadatta placed an iron drum four times shouting-distance away as his target. Then Sundarananda placed an iron drum six times shouting-distance away as his target. Daṇḍapāṇi placed an iron drum eight times shouting-distance away as his target. Finally the Bodhisattva placed an iron drum ten times shouting-distance away as his target. Behind the drum he set up seven palm trees, and beyond that he set up an iron image of a wild boar.
Ānanda struck his drum target twice shouting-distance away, but he could not shoot any farther. Devadatta struck the drum target four times shouting-distance away, but he also could not shoot any farther. Then Sundarananda struck the drum target six times shouting-distance away, but he was also unable to shoot any farther. Daṇḍapāṇi struck the drum target eight times shouting-distance away [F.79.b] and pierced it, but he also could not shoot any farther than that.
However, whichever bow the Bodhisattva drew, the string snapped or the bow broke. So the Bodhisattva asked, “King, is there any other bow here in the city that I can string or that can withstand my physical strength?”
“Yes, my son, there is.” replied the king.
“Where is it?” asked the boy.
“Son,” the king answered, “your grandfather was called Siṃhahanu. He had a bow that is now being honored in the temple with incense and flower garlands. No one since him has been able to string the bow, let alone draw it.”
The Bodhisattva said, “Your Majesty, may the bow be brought here! I would like to test it.”
When the bow was brought to the assembly, all the Śākya youths tried pulling the bow with all their strength, but they were unable to string it, let alone draw it. Then the bow was placed before the Śākya Daṇḍapāṇi, who mustered all his bodily strength and endurance and tried to string the bow, but could not. Finally the bow was placed before the Bodhisattva.  He picked it up and, sitting on his seat in the cross-legged position, he held it with his left hand and strung it with a single fingertip of his right hand.
While he was stringing the bow, a sound resonated throughout the entire city of Kapilavastu. All the townspeople became agitated and asked one another where the sound came from. Some said, “The sound is surely from Prince Sarvārthasiddha, who has strung his grandfather’s bow.” Then hundreds of thousands of gods and humans let out hundreds of thousands of exclamations of shock and cries of joy. The gods in the sky then addressed this verse to King Śuddhodana and to the masses:
Monks, the Bodhisattva now picked up an arrow, drew the bow, and released the arrow. His shot was so powerful that the arrow went right through the targets set up by Ānanda, Devadatta, Sundarananda, and Daṇḍapāṇi. The arrow then cleaved his own iron drum target, which was ten times shouting-distance away, then pierced the seven palm trees and the iron image of a boar before it finally entered the ground and disappeared. There, in the area where the arrow pierced the ground and vanished, a crater formed, which still to this day is called Arrow Crater.
Then hundreds of thousands of gods and humans let out hundreds of thousands of exclamations of surprise and cries of joy. The entire assembly of Śākyas was shocked and astonished. They said, “How amazing!  He has such expertise in the arts, without even having trained.”
In this way the Bodhisattva was superior in all the main aspects of the mundane arts, as well as in all practices beyond the reach of gods and humans. He was superior in leaping, and likewise in writing, finger counting, computation, arithmetic, wrestling, archery, running, rowing, swimming, elephant mounting, horsemanship, carriage driving, bow-and-arrow skills, [F.80.b] balance and strength, heroics, gymnastics, elephant driving, lassoing, rising, advancing, retreating, gripping with the hand, gripping using the foot, gripping using the top of the head, cutting, cleaving, breaking, rubbing, target shooting without causing injury, target shooting at vital points, target shooting through only hearing the target, striking hard, playing dice, poetry composition, prose composition, painting, drama, dramatic action, tactical analysis, attending the sacred fire, playing the lute, playing other musical instruments, dancing, singing, chanting, storytelling, comedy, dancing to music, dramatic dancing, mimicry, garland stringing, cooling with a fan, dying precious gems, dying clothes, creating optical illusions, dream analysis, bird sounds, analysis of women, analysis of men, analysis of horses, analysis of elephants, analysis of cattle, analysis of goats, analysis of sheep, analysis of dogs, ritual science and its related lexicon, revealed scripture, ancient stories, history, the Vedas, grammar, etymologies, phonetics, metrics and composition, rules for conducting rituals, astrology, the Sāmkhya philosophical system, the Yoga philosophical system, ceremonies, the art of courtesans, the Vaiśeṣika philosophical system, economics, ethics, hydraulics, knowledge of demigods, knowledge of game animals, knowledge of bird sounds, logic, hydromechanics, beeswax crafts, sewing, wickerwork, leaf cutting, and perfume making. [F.81.a] 
When that became clear, the Śākya Daṇḍapāṇi decided to give away his daughter, the Śākya girl Gopā, to the Bodhisattva. King Śuddhodana also formally requested her hand in marriage for the Bodhisattva.
Then indeed, in order to conform to worldly conventions, the Bodhisattva dwelt among 84,000 women and showed himself to partake of the amorous games with pleasure. Among the 84,000 women, the Śākya girl Gopā was consecrated as the foremost wife. However, no matter who the Śākya girl Gopā encountered, whether it was her mother-in-law, her father-in-law, or any other member of the inner quarters, she did not cover her face. So people criticized her and spoke badly of her, saying, “A new wife is supposed to be covered, but this one is always exposed.”
Monks, when King Śuddhodana heard these eloquent verses from the Śākya girl Gopā, he felt satisfied and happy, and he cheerfully rejoiced. He then offered her a pair of fine cotton fabrics that were set with many different types of jewels, a pearl necklace worth a hundred billion silver coins, and a garland of gold set with red pearls. The king then offered this sentiment:
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